Guarantee of mental health’s stability in times of pandemic

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Giulia Carvalhal de Almeida Cordeiro, a first-year medical student at the Federal University of Campina Grande, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Throughout history, several epidemics and pandemics diseases have caused psychological effects in the affected population. A study showed that 70% of Hong Kong city people in the period of the SARS outbreak had symptoms of anxiety. However, psychological consequences of pandemics are often overestimated and neglected, increasing the burden of associated diseases.¹

The COVID-19 is a major health crisis affecting several nations. Coronavirus, identified in late 2019, is highly contagious, it’s incidence grows exponentially, and it was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic. The application of strict quarantine worldwide has affected people’s lives. Therefore, it has led to a diversity of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Pandemics make people more insecure and anxious in the face of the unknown. The large-scale survey study of mental health from the China population during the COVID-19 outbreak discovered that almost 35% of the participants experienced psychological distress.² Short-term psychological disorder, as PTSD, leads to a high risk of compulsive and self-harm behaviors and suicidal crisis. In Long-term this may lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, post-traumatic schizophrenia, and post-traumatic depression.³ Regarding the psychological consequences, it is necessary to take individual actions to lessen the burden of pandemics.

Despite the essential physical isolation of quarantine, it is urgent to maintain emotional contact with family and friends through the digital space, for example. A support network creates a sense of union, protection, and affection, decreasing the chances of feeling lonely and depressed. Also, more support needs to be paid to vulnerable groups to psychological distress, as elderly people, who frequently have pre-existing physical and mental disorders and have the highest mortality rate in the COVID-19.

It is crucial to have self-care of physical health. The individual must practice leisure activities, have an adequate quality of sleep, have a balanced diet, and perform constant physical exercises. In situations of pandemic and social isolation it is common to exalt the feeling of fear and stress. Thus, it is necessary to pay more attention to feelings and thoughts to monitor dysphoric mental states such as irritability and aggression. Symptoms of depression and anxiety should be reported to a healthcare professional for help and treatment.

Filter information during the pandemic period is essential. A Chinese research discovered that young people (between 18 and 30 years) tend to consume a large amount of information, which justifies the group’s vulnerability.4 Lack of information is also harmful, as it can spread false rumors and unfounded fears, which amplifies stigmas. Check the sources of information – prefer official organization, like the WHO – and filter the news to lessen the burden.

Pandemics are challenging and bring up fears and insecurities. Panic behaviors caused overestimation of sub tested drugs and overstock home supplies in several countries affected by Coronavirus. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD lead to a high risk of cardiovascular and neurologic disease-associated. Therefore, mental health care in times of pandemic is essential to guarantee the stability of the individual and the society.

References

  1. Tucci V, Moukaddam N, Meadows J, Shah S, Galwankar SC, Kapur GB. The forgotten plague: psychiatric manifestations of ebola, zika, and emerging infectious diseases. J Glob Infect Dis. 2017;9:151-6. [ Links ]
  2. Qiu J, Shen B, Zhao M, Wang Z, Xie B, Xu Y. A nationwide survey of psychological distress among Chinese people in the COVID-19 epidemic: implications and policy recommendations. Gen Psychiatr. 2020;33(2):e100213. Published 2020 Mar 6. doi:10.1136/gpsych-2020-100213
  3. Auxéméry Y. Post-traumatic psychiatric disorders: PTSD is not the only diagnosis. Presse Med. 2018;47(5):423–430. doi:10.1016/j.lpm.2017.12.006
  4. Cheng C, Jun H, Liang B. Psychological health diathesis assessment system: a nationwide survey of resilient trait scale for Chinese adults. Stud Psychol Behav 2014;12:735–42.

About the author

Giulia Carvalhal de Almeida Cordeiro is a first-year medical student at the Federal University of Campina Grande, Brazil. She worked with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations of Brazil (IFMSA – Brazil) as a Local Publications and Research Director. Among its areas of interest are genetics, endocrinology, and neurology. Also she enjoys ballet, 90’s music, cook, and science fiction stories.

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